After spending 17 years behind bars and seven additional years on parole, a Brooklyn man broke down as a judge cleared him of wrongdoing in the murder of an off-duty corrections officer.
John Bunn was just 14 years old when he was wrongfully convicted in the August 1991 murder of a correction officer. The indictment was based on tainted evidence produced by disgraced ex-NYPD detective Louis Scarcella, The New York Daily News reported. Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Shawn’Dya Simpson scrapped Bunn’s conviction in 2016 and ordered a new trial after an evidentiary hearing exposed Scarcella’s crooked ways.
“I am more than emotional about this day,” Simpson said Tuesday, her voice cracking from the bench after prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against Bunn. “You were 14 at the time. This shouldn’t have ever happened.”
Bunn, 41, has always maintained his innocence in the deadly Crown Heights shooting that killed Rolando Neischer and seriously injured Robert Crosson. He served 17 years in prison and was paroled in 2009 for a crime he never committed, station PIX 11 reported. Defense lawyers said Bunn and another man, Rosean Hargrave, were framed for Neischer’s murder.
Police said the then-teens were placed in a photo line-up created by Scarcella for Crosson, who survived the deadly shooting and was the sole eyewitness, according to the New York Daily News. The former detective lost his credibility, however, after he was accused of giving misleading testimony, coercing confessions and manipulating witnesses. The New York Post reported that almost a dozen cases of Scarcella’s have been overturned amid allegations of misconduct.
“This case was tried … , a jury was picked, testimony was given and it concluded all in one day,” Simpson said of Bunn’s case. “I don’t consider that justice at all.”
Bunn’s tears turned to anger Tuesday after prosecutors announced they wouldn’t retry his case. Becoming emotional, he criticized the system that robbed him of 27 years of his life.
“They won’t admit I’m an innocent man,” the newly exonerated man said as he clutched the hands of his lawyers. “Y’all had the wrong man this whole time and you have (someone) out there running free and y’all had no right to do what you did.”
WATCH: John Bunn, wrongfully jailed at 14 in the 1991 murder of a correction officer, cries as he is exonerated. pic.twitter.com/EU9KmlPOCL
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 16, 2018
At one point, Bunn approached the bench and thanked Simpson for clearing him. They both shed tears as they held each other’s hands.
“I just feel overly blessed and I am thanking God that we reached this point,” Bunn, who started his own nonprofit called AVoice4TheUnheard.org, told PIX 11 after exiting the courtroom.